NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Robert Griffin III lifted his head from the Superdome turf so he could witness the fruits of his sacrifice, then raised both arms in the air as he began to sit up.
Although the Redskins rookie can scramble with the best of them, he decided against dancing away from blitzing Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins, electing instead to wait until the moment before impact to deliver the throw he was supposed to make.
The result was an 88-yard connection with Pierre Garcon that gave Griffin his first NFL touchdown and set Washington on the path to a season-opening 40-32 upset of New Orleans on Sunday.
Making a slew of clutch plays, Griffin sustained drives and helped Washington dominate time of possession, 39:10 to 20:50. Well-rested Redskins defenders liked what they saw.
"He lived up to all of the hype. He's as good as advertised," Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. "I mean, how many great plays did he make out there?"
Quite a few.
Griffin completed his first eight passes and finished 19 of 26 with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 139.9. He also scrambled for 42 yards. The ball Griffin threw for his first TD was given to him after the game, and the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor cradled it while talking about what it meant to him to play so well in his NFL debut and have Saints quarterback Drew Brees congratulate him after the game.
"You can win a high school state championship and a bowl game in college, but to play in the NFL, the pinnacle of it all, and win your first game against a Hall of Famer in Drew Brees, it's at the top," Griffin said. "After the game, (Brees) told me he was proud of me. That's big for him to say after he just lost the game."
New Orleans hoped to open the season with a defiant show of force in the wake of the bounty scandal that overshadowed its offseason. The Saints also got a boost Friday when a three-member appeals panel reinstated defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jon Vilma, who had been suspended for their roles in the Saints' alleged pay-for-pain bounty program.
Smith started, while Vilma, deemed unfit to play after offseason knee surgery, received a rousing ovation when he walked onto the field to lead the Saints' traditional pregame "Who-dat" chant.
Instead of riding that emotional high, the Saints spent much of the game trying to keep up with a Redskins offense powered by youth.
Griffin's second touchdown pass went for 5 yards to receiver Aldrick Robinson, a second-year pro making his NFL regular-season debut.